Faith, Life, Momming

Redeemed

We all have unpleasant memories. We’ve all experienced painful situations and seasons. One of my most terrifying experiences happened two years ago, and the worst of it started around Mother’s Day weekend. This isn’t your typical Mother’s Day blog post, but this is a story that needs to be told.

I was the stereotypical girly-girl growing up. I loved dresses, playing dress up in my mom’s old formal gowns, having tea parties, painting my nails, and playing with dolls. I dreamed of getting married and having kids. My dream of being a mom came true a couple of weeks before my 28th birthday. Six months after my son was born, I discovered I was expecting a second baby.

My kids are two of the greatest joys in my life, and I am honored to be there mom. However, after my daughter was born, I began experiencing postpartum anxiety and terrifying intrusive thoughts about the potential dangers for my new baby and the harm I had the power to cause. These horrible, unwanted thoughts led me to have thoughts of harming myself, lest I harm my precious daughter. I suffered in silence for many weeks out of fear that my children would be taken away. I knew I had to get help when I found myself crying in our bathroom closet.

I reached out to my midwife, began medication, and got into therapy. For the first few moths of medication and therapy, I felt broken and afraid I would never feel whole or normal ever again. I leaned on and clung to God. I filled my mind with His truth, and gradually the intrusive thoughts faded.

Two years later, I can finally say I’m beginning to feel “normal” again. Certain situations still trigger memories of the thoughts I had during my nightmare, but they no longer control me, paralyze me with fear, cause me to question myself and my identity, or cover me in waves of anxiety. In time, my scars may fade, and the memories of my nightmare may become dim and dull. But for now, I redeem my nightmare. I do not let it shame me into silence. If one woman finds hope and the courage to reach out for help because of my story, it will all have been worth it.

Postpartum anxiety is eclipsed by postpartum depression. We hear about postpartum depression, we’re given signs to watch for, but until two years ago, this mama had no idea to watch for anxiety or OCD in the months following the births of my children. Maybe this is the first time you’ve heard of anything besides postpartum depression. I highly encourage you to research it and to learn what to watch for in yourself and/or in the women around you.

This Mother’s Day weekend, if you are struggling in the postpartum phase, please reach out to your OB/GYN or midwife and a therapist. Do not let fear isolate you. You do not have to fight alone. There is hope, and you will be able to celebrate being a mother in time.

Faith, Momming

Twelve

Today was the day. Today contained a milestone I had hoped I wouldn’t have to see. At first, I was confident I wouldn’t see it, and then, as time passed, my confidence faded. Today marks twelve months of negatives.

Twelve months of not being pregnant. Twelve months of hope ending in disappointment. Twelve months of praying. Twelve months of waiting. Twelve months of dreaming.

Infertility is defined as twelve months of failing to conceive, and we are there. We’ve had a male factor infertility diagnosis for a couple of months now (considerably worse than it was in 2017), and I have an appointment scheduled with my OB/GYN next month. Hopefully we’ll get some answers.

When we first started trying for a third, I was confident it would happen quickly. When I got pregnant the first time, it was the week after we were prayed for and I surrendered to God. I got a positive pregnancy test when my son was only six months old, and the odds of conceiving had been extremely, extremely low. Because we’d gotten pregnant easily after being prayed for and we’d had a surprise pregnancy, I thought we were done with difficulty getting pregnant.

I was wrong.

While this time around has been a little easier because I do have two incredible little blessings, it has still been hard.

I’ve struggled.

I’ve struggled because so many of the people around me get pregnant right away. I envy their ease and the fact that they don’t have to walk through this valley.

I’ve struggled because it doesn’t match what I’d dreamed of. I’d wanted four kids, but I may only have two, and if God blesses us, three. The thought of a third being too much younger than the first two makes me sad because I was three years older than my brother who was less than two years older than our sister, and I felt alone. I don’t want that for my kids.

Mostly, I struggle because I know God is good and that He is able—I’ve seen it. Walking through this, it doesn’t feel like God is good or loving. I sometimes feel unseen, unloved, and unheard. I know that I’ve done all that I can do (at least until my doctor appointment), and that He is the only one who can do anything, but He hasn’t blessed us with another baby yet. If I’m honest, knowing He is the only one who can do anything, makes me reluctant to really pursue the relationship with Him that I want. My perspective needs to shift because this situation is not evidence of His lack of affection, nor is it proof that He has stopped being good.

What does this situation say?

He sees the big picture. He sees things I can’t see. He knows what is best for me and for my family. His heart is for me and my family, for our growth and for our good, because good and loving are literally descriptions of who He is. He knows exactly what my family and I need and when we need it, and because He and His character do not change, He can be trusted.

His timing is better than mine (as much as it pains me to say it). The wait doesn’t mean He has forgotten me, and it doesn’t mean He says “no”. We went to my parents’ house for Christmas this year, and because I knew there’s a bit of a letdown after Christmas, I decided we’d save our family gifts until we got back, so that we had something to look forward to. It was torture for me! I was tempted to give my husband and kids their gifts before we left. I was so anxious for them to have the gifts underneath the tree, even without their asking to open them! I had to say “no: when they asked because it wasn’t the right time yet. I was so excited for the day to come when I could finally let them open their gifts.

He is growing me, teaching me, shaping me, and deepening me through this time. Growth hurts. But you know what would be worse? Being stuck the way I am. As a mom, I want my kids to be capable. I want them to be able to solve problems and to do things for themselves. I don’t always rush to help them when they ask—instead, I will walk them through how they can accomplish whatever it is they’re needing help with. Can you imagine what life would be like if I rushed in to save the day every time they complained or faced something unpleasant? They would have never learned how to hold their heads up or how to roll over, how to crawl, sit, stand, walk, run, or jump. I’m so thankful God does not leave me as I am, but rather He continues to grow and shape me.

What are you learning from the season you’re in? What aspects of God’s character are you clinging in this season? What truths are you holding on to even when they don’t feel true in this moment?

Faith, Life, Momming

Is It Well?

Fun fact about me: I’m an Air Force brat. My dad was in the Air Force until I was 16. I’ve moved a total of 11 times, and lived in 5 states (6 if you count college) and two countries. Nine out of the first 13 years of my life were spent living in base housing (two of the houses we lived in were either condemned or torn down right after we moved out). So we never really settled in, and we knew those houses weren’t truly going to be home.

The year after we got married, we moved out of the house my husband bought when he was 24 (by putting the down payment on his credit card via a cash advance……..) and we bought our first house together. It’s a split level with four floors, and after finishing the basement, we’re sitting at about 2,200 square feet. We’ve done a lot to this house. We’ve refinished the kitchen, replaced the flooring on the main level, refinished the fireplace with shiplap, replaced the windows, replaced the hall bathtub and surround, replaced the vanity in our tiny master bath, finish about half of the basement, replaced the back door, relocated the door to the garage back to its original location, and replaced or refinished a few lights. The projects seem endless, and so many places in the house don’t quite feel finished or fully decorated.

Our master bedroom had been untouched until last year. We had the mismatched chest of drawers we had each brought into the marriages, and hand-me-down decorations on our walls. After I refinished our headboard and a matching set of dressers we found on Marketplace, our room felt so much more cohesive. The newly refinished furniture necessitated a new wall color, which meant new wall decorations were required. I found a couple of pieces I loved at Hobby Lobby for our room, and one that was perfect for our bathroom (did I mention how tiny our bathroom is?). It wasn’t until last month that I realized just how perfect the artwork was for our bathroom.

If you know my story, you may remember it took us a lot longer to conceive our firstborn than I had expected it would. We received a male factor infertility diagnosis the month of our first anniversary. It wasn’t what we had hoped for, but it was good to have some clarity. On our anniversary, we made a stop at IKEA. As soon as we got off of the escalator, my husband pointed out a family not too far from us and asked if that was the associate pastor of the church I had attended and worked at before getting married. It was. We were an hour from home, and they were two hours from home, and some how we were in the same place, at the same huge store, at the same time. They had been a blessing to me while my husband and I were dating, and knowing they had dealt with infertility, I confided in the pastor’s wife. Before we said goodbye, they prayed for us (specifically that we’d have 100 babies). Later that week, I spent time praying and surrendering to God, knowing that I needed Him to do something—whether that was healing me/my husband, taking away my desire for children, or at the very least assuring me that He was with me through the desert of infertility. I heard from God, and I knew He had either healed us or that He was least with us.

Two weeks later, I cried my eyes out when I saw the second line that I had prayed to see for so many months. When my son was six months old, I was shocked to see another positive pregnancy test. I love my two little ones! I think they’re pretty cute and special.

I’ve been on both sides. I’ve experienced the exhausting roller coaster of hope and disappoint, the frustration, the jealousy, the questions, and the waiting that infertility brings. I’ve experienced the surprise, fear, and bittersweetness that an unexpected pregnancy brings. Both experiences solidified my conviction that God is the author of life, and whether I’m trying to conceive or trying to prevent pregnancy, He is the giver of life, and it comes in His timing.

A little over two years after our surprise positive pregnancy, we’re back to dealing with infertility. I’m back to seeing one line, when I have hoped and prayed to see two lines. Today we received a test result that shows our fertility has decreased since we were trying to conceive the first time. The doctor suggested we see a reproductive endocrinologist, which seems to say IUI or IVF are the next steps to take medically.

My heart is heavy. This is month ten, and I’m weary in this wait. This feels hopeless, medically speaking. My heart and arms long for another baby. While I was still pregnant with my second, I believe God gave me a vision of a third, a little boy in a blue and white striped romper. It sounds crazy, but I saw my older two sitting in front of me and the tiny little boy I held, and while I never pictured myself having a blonde baby and am still surprised that I have a blonde, my daughter had light hair.

I know nothing is too difficult for God. I know God is the giver of life. I know if the vision truly was from Him, He is able to give me a third. I know He has a good plan. I know He has perfect timing.

And yet, I’m still heavy hearted. I still feel like crying. I’m frustrated and disappointed in myself for feeling this was despite my faith and knowledge. I remember that Jesus cried at Lazarus’s tomb, despite His power and plan to raise him back to life.

Infertility is like exercise for my faith. It isn’t fun. It hurts. I don’t enjoy it. But I know that it’s good for my faith. I know that when my faith is put to the test, I get to see God’s hand at work.

And so, the artwork hanging in my bathroom is unintentionally perfect. As I wait for the tests to show one line or two, I see the words, “It is well with my soul.”

After I read the test and my hope turns to disappointment or to joy, I read the words, “It is well with my soul.”

Whether or not it feels good, “It is well with my soul.”

Whether or not I feel it in that moment, “It is well with my soul.”

This is one of those times it doesn’t feel good, and I don’t feel like “it is well”. But I know the truth is that God is faithful, able, sovereign, and so good. Despite my feelings, it truly is well.

Faith, Momming

Why yes, my eyes are green(ish).

It has started again. That old familiar pang of jealousy. Familiar because I’ve wrestled with it my whole life. From being jealous of other kids with friendships, to being jealous of other young adults getting engaged and married, to being jealous of my friends having children, to people who live near their families, jealousy is no stranger.

It’s not that I’m not happy for my friends when they have exciting news, I really am, it’s just that…I want to be happy too. It’s not that I feel threatened by their happiness, as if there’s only so much happiness to divide up between everyone, it’s just that I don’t like waiting and can’t figure out why they get what I have been wanting and praying for.

While my friends and family members had always seemed to get pregnant with ease, I faced month after month of hope turned to disappointment. A sixteen year old’s pregnancy announcement brought me to tears. Newly married married friends’ announcement of an unplanned, years-before-their-timeline pregnancy left me hurt and angry with God. Why did they get what I wanted, and had prayed for, when they either weren’t prepared for it or didn’t want it yet?!

After praying and surrendering, I finally became pregnant—despite a diagnosed fertility issue. Then just six months after giving birth, I received the surprise of my life when I saw a second line on a pregnancy test. My research showed me that the odds of getting pregnant had been incredibly low.

My two pregnancies taught me that God is the author of life. Even when I think I’m in control and have a plan, He is sovereign. My lesson echos James 3:13-16, which says, “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.”

I’m ready for baby #3 whenever or if God decides to bless us again. I trust His timing and His wisdom, yet, somehow, it’s started again. I found a little sting of jealousy when I saw a pregnancy announcement the other night.

Jealousy is a thief. It robs us of joy and thankfulness for what we have. Jealousy is also the sister of doubt because it carries questions about whether or not God can be trusted to meet our needs and whether or not He truly is good and loving.

I know I have a choice: I can embrace the jealousy or I can recommit to trusting God and thank Him for what I have. I’ve seen the path jealousy leads me down, and it is miserable. There’s a reason One of the Ten Commandments is not to covet!

When jealousy reared it’s ugly head the other night, I chose to remember that God is trustworthy. I chose to remember that He gives good gifts. I chose to remember that He knows what I need, and when I need it, so much better than I do. It may be a struggle for me, but I’d rather fight than succumb to jealousy and distrust. My physical eyes may be green(ish), but I’m choosing to trust instead of letting the green eyed monster take over.

If you are struggling with jealousy or comparison, remember what God has done in your life. We can trust God with our dreams and desires. His timing is perfect, and He is all loving.

What color are your eyes?

Faith, Momming

On This Day In History…

It started one year ago today. The darkest, most nightmarish time of my life started one year ago. A joyful trip to the zoo, for the first time as a family of four, resulted in a nauseatingly horrifying intrusive thought that propelled me into months of panic attacks, heavy anxiety, and intrusive thoughts.

I have never been as terrified or felt as broken as I did last summer. My foundation was shaken. I questioned myself, my perception of reality, my future, my faith, and my ability to love and protect my children.

When the intrusive thoughts first began, I remember wondering if I was suffering from postpartum psychosis. When I finally did some research, I quickly realized my symptoms matched the symptoms of postpartum OCD. Postpartum OCD can involve intrusive thoughts about harming your children. A few of the people I spoke to about my thoughts said they’d had similar thoughts in the past, but quickly shrugged them off, while I was horrified by them and couldn’t shrug them off. I felt like such a horrible person that the thoughts remained at the forefront of my mind, taunting and terrifying me. The fear of what I was capable of triggered thoughts of ending my life before I might act on the intrusive thoughts and harm the children I adored.

One night, as the thoughts and anxiety were intensifying, I cried to Thad, “I don’t understand why this is happening. I am so happy right now. I love my life.” I had just gone through postpartum hypertension in the days after my daughter was born. While I waited for my blood pressure to return to a normal level, I had been terrified that I would have a stroke and die. Who would love my children as much as I did if I died? I didn’t want to die. My experience only two months earlier made that crystal clear.

One year later, I’ve gone through therapy. I’ve been on medication. I’ve learned to fight the intrusive, lying thoughts with truth. I’ve seen just how blessed I am with an amazing support system. I’ve learned the power of having a mind fixed on God and filled with His Word. I’ve also gained a level of empathy and understanding for those who suffer from mental illness that I did not have before.

Looking back on the darkness that began a year ago makes me want to cry. I’m a million times better than I was, but I’m not completely back to normal. I don’t know if I ever will be. I have scars that weren’t there before. I am fully confident that God can redeem my nightmare, and make my scars into a story worth sharing.

One of the ways He redeems my story is in its sharing, because when I share it, others can see that there is hope. Life can be so much better. The nightmare can give way to dawn.

If you are struggling with postpartum mental illness, please reach out for help. I know it’s scary. I know it’s uncharted territory. But there is hope. You are not alone. Reach out to your doctor or midwife. Find a therapist you trust. Don’t give up. Keep fighting.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. #BreakTheStigma